London 2018 – Day 1

IMG_9329With the royal wedding tomorrow England is at the center of everyone’s minds. Well, Prince Harry is, but for the sake of this post lets go with England.

Luckily, we recently took a trip to London and now I have the perfect excuse to tell you every last detail! Buckle your seat belts you’re in for a wild ride.

London was the beginning of our 4 country trip, over the course of 9 days, with 11 family members. Light work. It was easiest for Matt and I to travel out of JFK with my cousin Boobie, while the rest of the group flew out of Newark airport the Wednesday before Easter. We booked a red eye in hopes that we could get some sleep on the plane and wake up ready to take on the day. We get to the airport, check our bags and, as per our tradition, find food and a drink before our flight.

I’m sitting at the bar texting my cousin Boobie making sure he knows where to meet us once he’s past security while Matt is buying our drinks. A young man and his girlfriend end up sitting at the table next to ours. I think nothing of it as the woman gets up and goes to the bathroom. I am completely engaged in my Instagram feed when I hear “So where are you traveling to?” It takes me a moment to realize that the man who just sat down was talking to me. I told him my husband and I were traveling with family to London. He proceeds to tell me that he is traveling to Paris for his girlfriends birthday. He never actually called her his girlfriend but for the sake of this story lets just give her the title.

So I again start scrolling through Instagram when I hear, “My bad I’m just nosy. How long are you in London? I have a boy whose throwing a party out there on Saturday.” Awe shucks we were leaving Saturday morning so we couldn’t go to shady man’s party. Thank sweet baby Jesus Matt shows up right then with our drinks. “Sorry I’m just being nosy. I was telling her we are flying to Paris.” I don’t know how this man kept our ear but every time we tried to get out of the conversation he kept on going “sorry I’m just being nosy.” Now, we’re giving the man fashion advice on how not to dress at a destination wedding (he wanted to go full on olive suit and we pretty much told him he would die of heat stroke) when Boobie walks up.  The guys is. still. talking. Boobie shakes his hand, introduces himself, jumps into the conversation. That’s when the girlfriend returns looking out of place; Boobie introduces himself to the girlfriend. About 5 minutes later their flight to Paris is boarding and their off. I immediately give Matt a look and he starts laughing and tells Boobie we didn’t even know the couple. Boobie was shocked because he thought they were friends of mine since the man was so comfortable. “Look at you Reenie bagging shorties.”

Guys we haven’t even left the airport yet!

The flight was one of the most uncomfortable flights I’ve ever taken. We were on a red eye which meant that we left at 11 pm New York time and landed at 11 am London time. The flight itself ended up being about 6 and a half hours but the seats were so small you spent 6.25 of them trying to get comfortable. The airplane food was also not very appetizing, although I was impressed with the fact that there was a vegan option. Thank goodness i had the sense to have some vegan dumplings at the bar before we boarded. Also, I have never flown Norwegian before but they have this option on their TV’s were you can open a tab with your card and just keep ordering stuff without having to keep swiping. Matt and I both ordered two drinks before take off thinking they were the small little bottles. Once we were in the air and served the drinks we realized how wrong we were. Needless to say getting completely drunk did not help us get anymore sleep on this flight. Oh well! We tried. 

Once we landed and met our driver it took us a little over an hour from the airport to our hotel. P.s. – I spotted three Dominican barbershops in London! Mi gente! I see you!  On the way to the hotel we get these messages that my brother, Mo, had been sick the entire flight! I felt so bad for him, imagine being actively sick for 6.5 hours?

Side note: This trip was a birthday gift to me from my mother. We didn’t pay for the rooms or the airfare and we are so incredibly grateful. My mother planned the entire trip and organized the trains and the hotels and most of the activities. So I cannot take any credit for any of it. Thanks Momma!

image1In London we stayed at the St. Athan’s Hotel which is this cute little dorm room styled hotel with small rooms and shared bathrooms. The bathrooms were in between each landing on the staircase which made it pretty awkward to shower but I showered late at night when no one was around so I had no issues. Mornings were a little harder but there was a sink in our room to brush our teeth. There is also a cafe downstairs that gave us a discount because we were staying at the hotel.

Two things we effed up because we forgot we were in London.

  1. 1st floor in London means 2nd floor in US. My entire family was roomed on the first floor, which was convenient because this hotel did not have an elevator and no one wanted to drag their bags up the stairs. So when we arrived my mother requested that Matt and I be put on the first floor as well. Only to promptly be directed to the second floor, dragging our bags the whole way. In London the first floor is referred to as the ground floor. – Well duh!
  2. Room service. When a woman came knocking on my door with a smile on her face and a bag in hand saying “room service” I politely declined as we did not order anything. Thinking she must have gotten the wrong room. Only to realize 15 minutes later that the hotel doesn’t offer room service. Matt was the one who said it may be that they wanted to clean the room. So on our way out we had to ask them to please clean our room because we misunderstood. And when the woman asked me what I thought she meant. “I thought you were delivering food to the room” to which she laughed heartily and said she usually gets that mix up with first floor and ground floor. #faceplant

By the time we had our things dropped off and quickly refreshed ourselves, it was late afternoon. We had a reservation for the London Eye at 5 pm and decided that we would grab something to eat by there and then hop on. My mother announced that it was a 15 minute walk, so we all grabbed our umbrellas and started off. I say this as lovingly as I can: mom was wrong. 20 minutes into our 15 minute walk and I think the jetlag and hunger got the best of us. There was a bit of yelling on the streets of London before we eventually Uber’d it over to the London Eye with no time to eat.

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The London Eye is massive and so are the lines. Thankful a good friend of mine tipped me off to the VIP package they offer – The Champane Experience – you get to wait in their exclusive bar and have a drink before hand, you get a guide who comes on with you and serves you champagne and best of all you get to skip the line at your appointed time. So we checked in – there is a chicken shop inside the building you check in so some people went to get something to eat quickly while the rest of us headed to the VIP bar.

The bar was beautiful and empty! There was this massive chandelier with these palm sized dome/bubble things on them. Large white couches and dark wood panel walls. It was place at the corner of the building so you could see the London Eye from every window. We nestled in and enjoyed our first drink glad to be out of the rain for a bit.

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IMG_0252Enter Giovanni! This dude comes barreling in, Italian accent and all. Now his hype is getting me hype and I’m like “we about to have some fun!” I literally told him he was going to be my best friend. Guys I’m in London with my family and an Italian! The situation was hyped! My family instantly goes into the little bits of Italian we know (Boobie knows a lot actually) and start to take up all the attention of our guide Giovanni.

He ushers us into the moving London Eye and so we begin the 30 minute journey all the way around. And by moving I don’t mean we were all in awe of its beauty, I mean they literally rush you onto this thing as its in motion.

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I’ll admit at first its not too bad you’re not going around super fast and there is really a spectacular view. I would say the minute you get to the peak you go “oh shit! we’re really up here,” and you actually start to feel the movement. We’re snapping pictures, singing Happy Birthday to some girl in the bubble with us, cheers-ing champagne. (Although this was the VIP experience they managed to fit another 6 people in there with us, but it didn’t make a huge difference to us.) You also have a view of other people in their pods and at one point they were taking pictures of us so we were posing! Hamming it up all the way!

At some point, my mom is looking at Matt and goes “so do you want to tell her?” both of them with these grins on their faces.

Side note: I am both amazed and terrified at the ability of my husband and my mother to get together and keep a secret from me. I love them both so much.

My mother hands me an envelope with my name written on it. What’s in the envelope Reena? GURLLLLLL!!! There were two tickets to see Hamilton! In London! That night! I literally screamed and scared the poor people in the bubble who didn’t know me. Then I started crying. Then Matt tells my sister Amanda that she’s going with me! So now we’re both freaking out!

I’m not sure if I was speaking to my mother in Spanish or her to me but Giovanni over heard us and revealed his mother is from Spain. “Son Dominicano’s?!” So now we love him even more! Chopping it up in Spanish and our barely recognizable Italian. (Really just dad yelling “Ciao Bella!” and things of that nature over and over.) I’m pretty sure my dad tried to adopt him.

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Once we got off the London Eye the search was on to get some food before we had to go to the show. Also since no one had time to actually eat anything substantial before, we were all pretty hungry. When you walk out of the London Eye, to the left is the main line and to the right are a couple of attractions before you get to the bridge towards Big Ben. We almost missed the restaurant because it was nestled in between the attractions (Shrek, Sea Life, etc.). The restaurant is called Bao Fa Garden Chinese Restaurant and it ended up being one of my favorite places on the entire trip.

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At this point we’re all in pretty rough shape and almost falling asleep at the table.

My poor brother! This man lasted a 6.5 hour flight being sick the entire time and then trooped through the next 6-7 hours of our London Eye adventure like a champ. It was at this point that he was done. We were all ordering our food and my brother had his head laid on the table. When the waiter noticed that Mo didn’t order any food and we told him that my brother was not feeling well, he sprang into action.

I don’t even know how best to describe the next series of events. This older Asian man began to message my brothers head and neck right there at the table! My brother looked like he was melting into the table from the relief of it all. Right when Mo went to lift his head to thank the man, he switched arms and went in again. It was like watching a snake attacking its prey. Once the waiter left to put in our order it was like a switch flipped in my brother. He excused himself and left to go back to the hotel. By the end of the night he was as good as new. I don’t know what pressure points this man hit but we were all convinced he had the magic touch. And here goes my family telling him all their ailments at dinner!

When the time came, Amanda and I quickly scarfed down as much food and Redbull as we could and hopped in an Uber to Victoria Palace Theatre.

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Amanda and I made it with minutes to spare. To reduce scalping they make you show the credit card you purchased the tickets with at the door. Luckily my mother knew this and had the thought to give us her card before we left. What’s even more amazing is that we were in the second row! Close enough to see them sweat!!

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Its important to note both Amanda and I are running on fumes at this point. However the excitement was real ya’ll! It was at this point that I’m kind of glad Amanda came with me and not Matt. Matt would’ve probably told me to calm down where as Amanda was like “I wish I knew the words so I can sing it with you.” Suffice to say I made a damn fool of myself and completely enjoyed it the entire time! At one point there was an actor right in front of us and we could tell that he could see me rapping along with him. Which obviously made us more hyped. The show was amazing and despite our best efforts it was very hard to hear a British accent among the actors. Although it should be noted that the actor who played Hercules Mulligan had the best New York accent by far. There was also moments where we realized we were in London because when the king came out in the play these people went crazy! They loved him! While me and Amanda are laughing at New York/New Jersey jokes by ourselves. You could tell they changed a couple lines for the crowd too.

Somewhere in the second act I could feel Amanda’s head start to nod and eventually she was finishing the show with it perched on my shoulders. My redbull was wearing off too but I was too busy singing along to let my jetlag get the best of me. All in all it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and my favorite moment of the entire trip!

On our way out, I get a text from my husband to meet them at the hotel because they have been out drinking. Getting out of the show was a bit of a mess. We didn’t really know where to go, we were half asleep and it was so crowded we couldn’t get an Uber so we had to hop in a cab.

Side note: cabs are soooo expensive in London compared to Uber’s. What would have been a 7 pound ride was 20. Again, lucky that Matt had thought to give me some cash before we left. I’m pretty much useless without my husband and my mother sometimes. (Thanks guys!)

We get back to the hotel and we meet up with Matt, Boobie and Diana who were standing outside of the hotel talking to two of the employees. Amanda went to bed and we went to a bar around the corner. About 30 minutes later my brother shows up pretty much fully recovered. We stayed out until maybe 2 am – to be honest its all a blur at this point because of the jetlag. What I do remember is that we had plans to wake up and catch the changing of the guards the next morning at Buckingham Palace. My mom was super hyped for this so it was one of those things that were gonna happen with or without us. So we went to bed. Matt fell asleep pretty much right away but it took me forever to finally go to sleep.

Our first day in London was crazy but one thing we noticed is how few British accents we found on our first day. Everyone we met was from a Spanish or an Asian country. I don’t know if its just us who attract Spanish people or if we just weren’t in the posh places but it was interesting to note.

Day 2 to be continued next week, but in the meantime leave me a comment below if you’ve ever been to England, if you want to go, or if you have a favorite Hamilton lyric.

Until then I’ll be waiting on the couch, with my plastic tiara, for Harry and Meghan ❤

Besos! xoxo

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